Wash. state planning commissioner resigns over anti-LGBTQ+ comments

Tribune Content Agency

SEATTLE — A Sammamish planning commissioner who said LGBTQ+ people are “poisoning our kids,” among other statements, has resigned amid condemnation from the city and residents.

Wassim Fayed said in comments that drew fire after a Thursday meeting that LGBTQ+ people “spread diseases” and “are not a minority people who are disenfranchised.” His roughly six-minute-long remarks, he said, were in response to diversity training the commission had received.

Fayed resigned Monday from his appointed position.

City officials and residents denounced the comments Tuesday at the City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting, following the city’s strong rebuke issued Monday as Fayed’s remarks continued to circulate on social media.

Mayor Kali Clark, the city’s first out LGBTQ+ council member and mayor, said she felt empowered by the solidarity and outpouring of support from the community.

“To our youth, hate has no place here. To all of our residents, our city staff, leadership and our volunteers, hate has no place here,” she said.

Reached Tuesday, Fayed said he never intended to insult anyone but stands by his statements. He said he’d planned to resign beforehand because he didn’t have time for his commissioner duties while running his businesses. He’s the owner of Tanoor, a Lebanese restaurant with locations in Sammamish and Seattle.

“I resigned because I just didn’t want to cause any additional issues, but at the end of the day, even in my business, I have people who have been working for me who are openly part of the LGBT community, so we don’t discriminate,” Fayed said. “I have never discriminated against anyone.”

The city added a disclaimer to the planning commission video, putting in a bar across the screen that says Fayed’s comments reflect his personal views and not those of city leadership.

“While we acknowledge the Commissioner’s right to free speech, we were shocked to hear the comments made and we strongly condemn them,” the city wrote in a statement. “These comments do not represent our city or community. The City of Sammamish is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment where hate has no place.”

Fayed said during the meeting that he was speaking from his perspective as a Muslim person and felt it was his duty “when I see certain things that are not appropriate and not right, to at least speak about it.” At the end of his comments, another commissioner thanked him for speaking and building on their diversity training. The seven-member commission then moved to the next agenda item.

Dozens of people attended and spoke at Tuesday’s City Council meeting; Clark said she had never before seen that many attendees pack into the meeting room. Residents became emotional as they spoke against Fayed’s comments.

“When he attacked the LGBTQ+ community, he attacked my family, my friends, my loved ones,” resident Gestin Skaggs said.

Some praised city officials, though others were critical of the city and commissioners’ immediate response.

Hayley Gudgin, the president of Plateaupians for Peace, was joined by more than a dozen other members of the organization as she spoke during the meeting. She said the city should have addressed the statements immediately and questioned why no one spoke up during the Thursday meeting.

“Silence condones these attitudes and causes untold damage to those targeted, and we cannot afford to stand by as our community members are attacked,” she said.

Kerry Bosworth, a planning commissioner, said she was in shock and that while her thoughts were “running a mile a minute, my voice was not.” She said she expressed her disappointment after the meeting. Deputy Mayor Amy Lam said they’ve received apologies from commissioners.

“In other places, not here on the dais, I have been called racist names, and I have not said anything. It has taken me years to speak up, because in that moment, you don’t know what to do,” she said. “So I do give the commissioners grace in this situation.”

The Sammamish Muslim Association said it was deeply troubled by the comments, calling them harmful and not representative of the association or the wider Muslim community in Sammamish.

“Despite his resignation and apology, we write to clarify that our diverse Muslim community and Islamic faith do not condone his language or behavior,” the association said in a statement read by Councilmember Pam Stuart. “The religion of Islam is a religion of mercy that teaches kindness, compassion, and treatment of all human beings with dignity.”